OPM to Overhaul Retirement System

The Office of Personnel Management has sent to Congress a new strategic plan for improving retirement services and reducing the retirement backlog, a large part of which focuses on hiring new staff and upgrading technology.

The plan, unveiled Wednesday, involves a multifaceted approach that includes hiring 56 new legal administrative specialists and 20 new customer service specialists, expanding workers' hours and the use of overtime through employee incentives and upgrading technology.

The technology piece of the plan focuses on pursing a long-term data flow strategy, exploring a short-term strategy to leverage work agencies do now and reviewing and upgrading systems used by the legal administrative team.

OPM said the goal of the plan is to eliminate the claims backlog, which was 48,478 claims as of Dec. 31, within 18 months and process 90 percent of all new claims within 60 days of receipt from the agencies. Currently, the average time to process a new retirement claim is 156 days, according to the plan.

OPM's Retirement Systems Modernization project failed in 2008, and after struggling to address the claims backlog, OPM Director John Berry terminated the program in spring 2011.

"Prior efforts to improve the administration of retirement programs over the past 20 years have focused almost exclusively on automation and IT improvements," the plan states. "While IT remains a component of the long-term solution, it cannot be the only the strategy."

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